Yesterday marked two places in time for me: the halfway, one-week mark of this road trip, and the two-week anniversary of being a college graduate.
Time is still aggressive. It charges on unashamedly, creating justice by ensuring that each day is the same length as the one before and the one after. While I’m satisfied with the amount of people, places and activities we’ve crammed into a week, I feel like I’m still stretching one arm backwards to a period of my life that is just getting further and further away.
But enter Colorado. The story is changing a little bit while I’m here (it’s fortunately a four-day stop – quite the relief from long car rides). On Friday, we crossed the border from Kansas only to discover that eastern Colorado actually looks the same as Kansas does. Surprise. But by nighttime, we reached Fort Collins and one of my best friends Kelly’s house, which fortunately rests near the foothills of the Rockies.
Her family cooked us dinner and then we went to bed pretty quickly, which was necessary to wake up at 2:55 a.m. for a sunrise hike. We started up a mountain in the dark close to 4 a.m. and made it to the peak by the time the sun had started to rise. It was absolutely spectacular. Behind us was a snow-capped mountain range, and in front of us was a town with all of its streetlights still lit and more mountains and floating mist and a reservoir reflecting the colors in the sky and clouds covered in shades of gold and pink that I just hadn’t quite seen before.
We hiked back down, seeing the mountain in the light this time. We ate brunch, took a nap, and then went on brewery tours around Fort Collins. And then yesterday we went to church at a coffee shop dedicated to serving Christ using a coffee counter as a relational conduit and then laid under the sun (and some formidable rain clouds) in a park. And then we said goodbye to our good friend Kelly, who will leave for Mozambique as a Peace Corps volunteer in September, and drove to Denver.
In Denver, we are staying in a friend’s little downtown bungalow while both she and her roommate aren’t there. Last night we explored downtown Denver and then this morning headed for coffee shops – separately and without telling each other where we were going – for some alone time. And all three of us ended up at the same coffee shop, go figure.
We have been on the road for over a week and have yet to stay in a single hotel. Friends across the country have opened their doors to us – friends from high school, friends from college and friends of friends that we barely know or don’t know at all. We will meet up with more friends as our journey continues, who will just happen to be in the same place as us or who will just happen to be on our way. It’s nothing but a blessing to have so many friends across the country.
It’s still sad I won’t be waking up in the same house or the same town as these friends anymore, and I don’t know if that will ever stop being sad. But the friend whose house we’re staying in here in Denver is an older, very wise friend, and has spoken truth to me on many occasions since my freshman year of college. I can go through every year of college and remember words she spoke to me that I am unlikely to ever forget.
I’ll only write about this year’s words, because they’re very relevant right now. The day I graduated, she told me that the best is yet to come. And this means a lot coming from her, because she lived college in the best way she knew how. She poured into everything she did, and I know that because I did a lot of those things with and after her and felt like I had a legacy to follow. Looking around her little bungalow, I see dozens of photos of her and her college friends and know that she loved her friends and her college experience as much as I loved mine.
But still, she told me the best is yet to come. And I think the story of Colorado is that I’m starting to believe that, or at least that what comes next will be equally as good. It’s a big world out there. There’s an endless amount of places to visit, people to meet and experiences to be had. I can look forward to finding a job that I’m passionate about, to experiencing a new culture and community, or even to living in a downtown bungalow. And yes, I guess I can even be excited about meeting new people and making new friends – although I’m still pretty stubbornly saying I like the old ones.
So as I start to lean in and accept this next phase of life, I want to take with me one major lesson I learned as an undergraduate: Things rarely go the way I want them to or the way I planned. But if they had, my life wouldn’t be as good as it is now. This is a lesson I’m trying to keep in mind as I have new ideas and plans every single day about where I want to go and what I want to do. I’m at a turning point, and there’s a direction that I’ll go in, but for now it’s good enough to stand at the crossroads and look around and enjoy the view. It’s a place to smile at what’s behind while eagerly trying to steal a glance at what’s ahead. And today, it’s a place to be deeply satisfied that I have friends in faraway places – good friends – and that I get to experience those faraway places.